This article originally appeared on the Idaho Conservation League Blog on March 20, 2019.
Clean, reliable and affordable energy. Some people say we have to pick one goal, but we know Idaho can have all three at once by phasing out aging, dirty coal plants and reinvesting in new clean options.
ICL’s campaign to eliminate Idaho’s reliance on coal-fired power plants continues to bring results, and we now see a clear path forward to achieving this goal.
What’s new? Idaho Power’s recent planning process shows a variety of ways to exit coal by 2034. More importantly, the most likely path would include fully transitioning away from the massive Jim Bridger plant — a process that would begin in 2022 and wrap up by 2028 with Idaho being completely divested from the plant. That’s less than ten years away. This is a very fast timeline when it comes to massive projects like the power grid.
ICL has Long History of Stopping Coal
ICL stopped the construction of two coal-fired power plants in Idaho. In the 1970s, our defeat of the proposed Pioneer Plant outside Boise grew into a lasting engagement with the state regulator to create energy conservation programs. In the early 2000s, ICL stopped San Diego-based Sempra Energy from building another coal-fired power plant near Twin Falls. In both cases, it was the collective voices of Idahoans demanding clean, reliable and affordable energy that won the day. Continue this effort by telling your utility you want clean energy.
We then turned our attention to closing existing plants. ICL engaged in Idaho Power’s long-term planning process, the Integrated Resource Plan, in 2015 and established that exiting the North Valmy plant in Nevada was the best option to maintain reliable and affordable energy.
Based on that process, ICL negotiated a settlement with Idaho Power in 2017, resulting in an exit plan with the other Valmy owner, NV Energy. On March 8, Idaho Power officially announced this plan — leaving Valmy Unit 1 by the end of 2019 and leaving Unit 2 by 2025 at the latest with the likelihood of moving this date forward to 2021. You can help us accelerate this timeline. If you are an Idaho Power customer, tell them you want a clean energy future for Idaho.
Closing the Big Plants
Now we are focused on two of the biggest coal-fired power plants left in the West — Colstrip in Montana and Jim Bridger in Wyoming.
Avista owns a portion of the Colstrip plant in Montana. That plant faces massive uncertainties. The owner of the coal mine that supplies the plant is bankrupt, and the new owners do not have an agreement to sell coal to Colstrip beyond 2019. Logically, if the prior contract contributed to the bankruptcy, then the new contract would have to charge a higher price for coal. Also, toxic coal ash piles at Colstrip must be cleaned up; estimated by Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s to cost at least $700 million. With no coal supply and massive clean up liabilities, the best way to protect Idahoans’ pocketbooks and clean air is by exiting the plant as soon as possible.
ICL recently entered a settlement with Avista that deals with the timeline to pay off the investment in the plant. Our settlement accelerated this timeline from the 2040s to 2027. By accelerating the payoff, we can accelerate the decision to exit the plant through engaging in Avista’s long-term planning process (Integrated Resource Plan). You can help – if you are an Avista customer, tell them you support clean energy.
Idaho Power owns a portion of the massive Jim Bridger plant in Wyoming. Like we did with the North Valmy plant, ICL engaged in the utility planning process. In the most recent round, ICL caused a major shift in the basic methods and tools Idaho Power uses to assess future options. By moving to industry best practices, we see interesting results. Of the 24 possible paths forward Idaho Power is considering, all of them result in exiting Bridger by 2034. Far more importantly, the most likely paths forward show exiting the four individual units by 2028 is the best path.
Which path to pursue depends on what forecast of future costs for natural gas and carbon pollution you believe are most accurate. Idaho Power’s planning case forecasts extremely low gas prices and little cost for carbon pollution. We think that is a very risky proposition that, in the case of gas prices, relies on pure speculation. Since these are initial results, now is the right time for you to speak up. Tell Idaho Power you support transitioning away from coal in favor of clean energy.
Speak Up Now
Clean, reliable and affordable energy. Some people say we have to pick one goal, but we know Idaho can have all three at once by phasing out aging, dirty coal plants and reinvesting in new clean options. Using the same strategies and facts we deployed to exit Valmy, we can get out of the Colstrip and Bridger plants. Now is the time to speak up and tell your utility you want clean energy.